In 1930, Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America announced the adoption of the Motion Picture Code designed to clean up the movie business. The Code prohibited words like a virgin, seduce, pregnant, chippy, broad, and even words as harmless as damn and hell. In 1934 the Catholic Church announced the founding of the Legion of Decency and promised to boycott offensive films. Every week the churches gave parishioners a copy of the so-called “X-List,” which banned Catholics from seeing any movie that was written on it.

One film on that list was “The Moon is Blue” from 1953, starring William Holden and Maggie McNamara. This film was banned because the heroine told her date that she was still a virgin. At that time, such intimate revelations were not allowed; after all, every unmarried woman was supposed to be a virgin, so it was unnecessary to verbalize it. It was also the first film to use the words “virgin,” “seduce,” and “mistress” after a long battle with censors.

The 40s and 50s were so puritanical that even married people could not be shown in films together in bed; they had to lie next to each other in two single beds, usually with a bedside table separating them. And they could never kiss in bed unless they died, and it was obvious they weren’t going to have sex.


A woman had to wear full panties in a movie; she could never appear in half panties and a bra. A bare waist was shocking! The modesty in clothing began to erode in 1946 when the bikini swimsuit was introduced amid loud cries of “obscene.” Many parents forbid their daughters from wearing such tight dresses on the beach. Another blow to modesty came in 1964 when the mini skirt came into vogue. “Hotpants” followed and then the micro-mini, but nothing shocked many people as much as the “thong” swimsuit. Again loud shouts of “obscene” and “it should be forbidden as immoral” could be heard. Some thought it was the end of civilization as we knew it, and it was compared to the decades before.


Playboy magazine, trademarked by photographs of naked and half-naked women, was first published in 1952 and featured Marilyn Monroe on the cover and photos of her sans clothing in it. There were sharp objections that it was immoral and contributed to the demise of a progressive society.

In the 1960s, Elvis’ portrayal of circling hips while singing aroused the same reaction.


Before the so-called “hippie revolution” of the 1960s, couples did not live together openly. This arrangement was called “live in sin” or “whip up” and was considered immoral and shameful and was usually hidden from people.

Lovers who wanted to spend the night together had to find a hotel room and pretend they were married. This usually involved getting a wedding ring from the dime store and filling a suitcase or two with books or newspapers not to arouse suspicion on the part of the registrar.

Before the late 1950s, there were few apartment buildings, and most singles who did not live at home rented a room or an apartment in a house. They weren’t allowed to have overnight guests of the opposite sex, so those wanting to bypass the rules had to be sure their partner left before the homeowner woke up in the morning. Getting caught meant getting evicted.


Unmarried pregnant women were called “unmarried mothers” rather than “single mothers,” and their babies were called “illegitimate” ones, or even the cruder term, “bastards.” In the 1960s, so-called “shotgun weddings” became ridiculous relics of the past. Parents no longer required that the man who made their daughter pregnant marry her and take financial responsibility for the baby. The father often went away, and the mother received social assistance, often supported by taxpayers’ money. But by the 1960s, unmarried motherhood came out of the closet, became accepted, and even became an epidemic on the high school campus.

The flower children of the 1960s introduced dramatic behavior changes that were considered permissible. As world events affected the status and role of people, these ideas went hand in hand with changes in their morals.